I understand you feel that way, but I feel this way: the benefits of I-language and communicating perspective during conflict

PeerJ. 2018 May 18;6:e4831. doi: 10.7717/peerj.4831. eCollection 2018.


Using hypothetical scenarios, we provided participants with potential opening statements to a conflict discussion that varied on I/you language and communicated perspective. Participants rated the likelihood that the recipient of the statement would react in a defensive manner. Using I-language and communicating perspective were both found to reduce perceptions of hostility. Statements that communicated both self- and other-perspective using I-language (e.g. 'I understand why you might feel that way, but I feel this way, so I think the situation is unfair') were rated as the best strategy to open a conflict discussion. Simple acts of initial language use can reduce the chances that conflict discussion will descend into a downward spiral of hostility.

Keywords: Communicating perspective; Defensiveness; Factorial ANOVA; Hostility; Hypothetical scenarios; I-statements; Interpersonal conflict; Perspective taking; Rating statements; You-statements.

Grant support

The authors received no funding for this work.